It’s the election season here in India. A few states have already voted and the others would be voting soon. For the past few months there has been a heavy political atmosphere around! It’d be hard to find a news story which isn’t centered on politics. Obviously this is a good thing , with people getting enough information about the various political parties and their agendas, they can make an all round decision about whom they should vote for. And then, who can deny the so called “Modi wave” ?! Most of the hype around politics and elections has been centered on Modi. If you happen to watch a debate on some news channel, chances are, the topic is Modi-centric. The PR team of BJP/Modi has indeed done a really good job of projecting him as India’s savior,a person who will tackle all persistent issues like economic development, bureaucratic/political corruption and the likes.
I really haven’t been that into the issue of politics. Sure , I’m aware of most of the things happening around , because I read the newspapers and articles/opinions on the internet. But I don’t staunchly support any political organization/personality, because I haven’t really pinned my hopes on any of them. A few months back, during the India Against Corruption campaign, I did feel good about the issues being raised . When AAP was formed , it did signify some hope. The party seemed to be successful in shifting people’s attention to the fundamental issues and signaled a new form of politics, a clean one. Similar sentiments were probably being echoed in a lot of people’s minds(especially urban youth?) and this was confirmed when AAP had a surprising victory at the Delhi state elections. But then, the events after that, when Kejriwal was in power were really disappointing right up till he resigned , and all that drama in between.
So yeah, that’s that. I’ve been a passive observer of the political scene, without really being active in anything. And this is the first time, I’m voicing my opinion on anything political. I never really felt a strong urge to voice it, because there are so many other issues in life (coding , academics , college being on the top of the list) that have a higher priority for me.
So anyway, yesterday I happened to watch the debate, ‘We The People’ on NDTV. It was about the communal politics of the BJP/Modi, the sensitive history behind Modi , the threat to secularism and various such issues. Half of the panelists were of the opinion that the violent past should be forgotten and the country must move on, and concentrate on more real issues like development. And the other half felt that a person, like Modi, with such right-wing views and a bloody past, was a threat to the country and the democratic ideals upon which it is based. You cannot just forget the deaths and the massacre of so many people that happened when this man was in power in Gujurat, and focus on development. The development factor itself has been controversial, with a lot of people claiming that Modi hasn’t been extraordinary at that. Other states like Maharashtra have seen similar or better development. But the development issue was secondary yesterday, it was mostly about secularism/communal-ism. The major points were that , Modi in power, would mean heightened censorship , less freedom of thought, and especially no protection of the minority (Muslims) against communal forces. And is it morally right for us to elect a man as PM, when he has been involved in such a carnage?
The points raised were important and they needed to be thought upon. So yesterday , after the show, I decided to look up the 2002 Godhra violence in more detail and fill in gaps in my knowledge about the event. One of the panelists in yesterday’s debate was Nandita Das, a renowned actress and social activist. She has directed a film ‘Firaaq’ , set a month after the violent event. I saw it on Youtube , and saw another documentary titled ‘Final Solution‘ examining in detail the atrocities committed during the riots, and the factors behind it. I read a few articles on various websites too. I also read up about the origins of RSS ( Modi was in the RSS before joining the BJP) and all of this led me in succession to reading about Gandhiji’s death and the assassin’s views on why he did it. Here is a detailed article , which are actually Godse’s actual court transcripts explaining his philosophy and the motives behind the action. Godse himself was an RSS member, and a strong crusader for the Hindu cause.
According to what I’ve read, hear is what I’ve gauged from all of this. I urge everyone to look up this matter, as a lot of information is available on the web. Quite a lot of it seems biased, and there’s really no shade of black and white here. There is no good/bad side . Its just dirty politics played on the issues of religion by everyone involved. Reading second hand accounts about everything, there is a possibility that my views too are unintentionally biased. So obviously, don’t agree to everything that I’ve said, think for yourself.
The main issue that started all of this, was the Godhra train burning . This was a train returning from Ayodhya(the site of the Ram temple/Babri Masjid conflict), with most of the travelers being Hindu pilgrims. This led to widespread outrage and sparked communal feelings. The RSS , VHP, BJP and other saffron parties claimed that this was an attack by the Muslims on the Hindu religion(the train had a lot of RSS members inside) and called for avenging the lives of the people that died. This was the start of the horrible carnage that killed thousands of people(most of them Muslim, 790 is the official figure). The carnage went on for weeks, and it is believed that the government(Modi was the CM of Gujurat during this event) didn’t do enough to stop it. A lot of people rather say that the administrative machinery was an active part of this, and actually helped the rioters. There was widespread violence, rape, grave crimes(butchering of bodies in inhumane ways) committed, by both sides. One side did something , the other retaliated. But Hindu’s being the majority in Gujurat, the minorities suffered more. There is one incident about the killing of Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri . It happened in an area called the Gulbarg society, which was mostly filled with Muslim population . A large mob gathered here with swords, knives, petrol cans and other weapons to kill everyone present here. The community, scared of the happenings, gathered at the MP’s house thinking that his house would be spared as he’d have contacts in the higher departments. Jafri made several calls to various people , including Modi, and top Congress leaders but to no avail. No one could do anything, and no help arrived from the police(in-spite of police assurances earlier that day). The whole area was burned, men killed and woman raped in horrifying ways. Jafri was taken outside the house, and hacked to death by the mob. And this is just one incident, out of the thousands.
Yes, maybe this man wasn’t clean and sacred. Maybe , I’m just looking at one side of the story and there’s more to it. But reading all these events just scares you! Such uncontrolled violence is just unthinkable by anyone, be it of any religion. And its the government’s responsibility to stop such misshapennings , right after they originate and help contain the violence before it erupts and the mob mentality spreads all over!
To this day, it has not been found , who actually sparked the fires on the train. There have been various committee’s examining and inquiring it and all of them have given different verdicts. Many experts too have studied the incident, and views have been conflicting. Some believe , it was the saffron elements themselves(RSS/VHP/BJP) who burned the train to create the entire issue. Some say , it was the Muslims who did it. And some say , the train fire was an accident caused by no one in particular. There have been numerous arrests made, but no straight conclusions.
Whatever caused the fire, the Hindu parties claimed it was the Muslims, and added oil to the flames of the extremely sensitive issue. It was a perfect issue to communalise and it formed the BJP’s election campaign(or it probably was based on it from the start, and this just helped strengthen it)! The BJP , which includes the RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal and other saffron parties, have Hinduism as their main agenda. Their main responsibility is to strengthen the Hindu voice, and prevent its downfall. To spread Hinduism as far as possible. If anyone tries to harm the Hindu religion in anyway possible, they will face harmful repercussions. There’s a lot more to this philosophy and I don’t claim to know the least bit of it. And on the outset, there’s no reason to condemn these principles . Some people love their religion and are willing to to support such organizations, some are religious but don’t support them and some don’t follow the concept of religion(or rather religion-exploitation) . You are in a democracy and you’re allowed to have your own opinion. But that doesn’t mean you start killing in the name of religion! Maybe, such similar crimes have been committed by Muslims on Hindus and hence the retaliation. And after reading about pre-independence years, I certainly think such incidents have happened in large numbers with Muslim perpetrators. That was the reason why right-wing nationalist leaders created organization like the RSS, to protect Hindu interests. Muslim appeasement(Gandhiji agreeing to the partition of India), inspite of violence and atrocities by Muslims, was the major reason why there was hate against Gandhiji and is the reason why he was shot. The politics of Gandhiji, his principles, and his place in the Indian freedom struggle is a huge debatable issue in itself , that I cannot talk about here. But it is closely related to the formation of Saffron organizations, and the Hindi-Muslim dispute. It was all started then, by the divide-and-rule policy of the British, that was just fodder for malevolent forces inside both communities to feed on. Right wing organizations like RSS are an answer to the violence of the extremist Muslim elements. Its all a vicious cycle, one starts an issue on communal grounds, the other retaliates in a harsher way and the vicious cycle goes on. This is probably the major issue that has been haunting India after independence . The exploitation of religion! The pre-independence riots, formation of Pakistan, the 1992 Ayodhya(Babri Masjid demolition) riots, the Mumbai bomb blasts, the Gujurat riots, and so many of the other events in between these and so many events after these! The issue is still very ripe and does get exploited again and again. The recent UP Muzaffarnagar riots is again, a different form of the same fundamental issues! Indian politics is dirty, its not just BJP, its the other parties too.
What is pathetic in these clashes is that its usually the innocents who have to suffer. People who have no involvement in anything! Because of the wrongdoings of a few, the whole community has got to suffer. This is one of the main reasons why I dislike religion. Religion has probably caused more violence than any other issue in the world. Rather religion exploitation, or whatever. People blindly follow their faith, and are taught to not question anything. No rational reasoning, whatsoever. With people so devout about anything religious, its so easy to manipulate religious sentiments! That is what these organizations exploit! The weak mindedness(or close mindedness) of the individuals who aren’t capable of reasoning for themselves the effects of the actions that they’re performing! Brainwashing is the word probably. Religion practiced in a clean way isn’t a least bit harmful, but its too easy to exploit religion and cause hatred and enmity among the religions.
And this is what most people fear/dislike the most about the BJP, and Narendra Modi. What if such an event occurs again ? What if the people who are supposed to protect the nation, stand still and watch the fire spread over the nation? Worst, what if they themselves organize and spread it? Will the innocent un-involved minorities have to face all that that has happened before, again, now on a wider scale ? Or, have the BJP and Modi changed all their fundamental philosophies for the better of the nation?
Modi , in spite of being cleared by the Supreme Court of India, still has a lot of evidence against him. Even if one were to believe Modi is not guilty, maybe he could’ve done a lot more for stopping the riots! It can be seen that he still isn’t as accepting of the minorities, and they still fear him. Modi , being raised in the RSS, also has strong opinions of good/bad and of morality/immorality . Will his government, including the leaders from VHP/RSS , who will surely be given some posts , be tolerant of things that are different from their traditions/values? I don’t want to be scared in the future that I’ve written out my opinions in a blog post that looks at violence / (or other sensitive issues) in a neutral light, and that criticizes some points which I don’t agree with. That is why freedom of speech matters! I want to express such thoughts when I feel like, in the future too. Be it about anything. I don’t want alcohol to be banned all over India. People must be able to choose, in which things they want to indulge in, and they can choose for themselves as rational thinking adults.
If all such issues are tackled by Modi in a positive way, I’d surely support him. Being a strong personality, he would have the ability to bring order in the country about things like corruption. Development would also be addressed, if his Gujurat model is as successful as the BJP claims it to be. As for me, I personally do not think that he’s the messiah people make him to be. People have just pinned too many of their hopes on him. Communal claims aside, he seems to be a strong leader, and I’d of course be happy if he does all things right. But, are others all around me, thinking about all these things before voting for Modi ? Or are they just blindly following the wave around and unquestioningly casting their vote? Absence of another strong candidate to vote for is another issue which makes things complicated! We’d choose the lesser of the evils probably.
I just hope things stay stable and calm , whoever is in power. As for me, I doubt my life is going to be any different a year later!